From Academic Kids

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Osceola (1804-January 20, 1838) was a leader of the Seminole Indians in Florida. Osceola led the vastly outnumbered Seminole resistance during the Second Seminole War when United States tried to remove the Seminoles from their lands.

Osceola was born 1804 near Alabama, Georgia. His mother was a Creek Indian. His father might have been white trader William Powell; some white men persisted calling the young man Billy Powell.

In 1814 Osceola and his mother moved to Florida alongside other Creek Indians. In adulthood he received his name; the name Osceola is an anglicised form of Asiyahola; assi, from a ceremonial yaupon holly tea or "black drink" and yaholi, name of a Creek god intoned when the drink was served.

In 1832, a few Seminole chiefs signed the Treaty of Payne's Landing, where they agreed to give up their Florida lands in exchange for lands west of the Mississippi. Osceola and many other Seminole were outraged by this treaty; Osceola reportedly stabbed the treaty with a dagger and said, "This is the only treaty I will make with the white man!".

In 1835 general and Indian agent Wiley Thompson humiliated Osceola by placing him in chains when he again refused to sign the treaty. Osceola was released when he pretended to submit. On December 28 1835 Osceola and 50 of his men ambushed Thompson outside Fort King and shot and scalped him and four other whites. The Second Seminole War erupted soon after.

Although Osceola was not an elected chief, his band of about 4,000 men successfully held over 200,000 United States Army troops at bay for over ten years by employing hit and run guerilla warfare tactics from bases deep within the wilderness swampland that was then central and south Florida.

On October 21 1837, on the orders of General Thomas Sidney Jesup, Osceola was captured when he arrived for supposed truce negotiations in Fort Payton. He was imprisoned at Fort Marion, St. Augustine.

Osceola's capture by deceit caused uproar even among the white population and Jesup was publicly condemned. Opponents of the contemporary administration cited it as a black mark against the government.

In the next December Osceola and other Seminole prisoners were moved to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. There painter George Catlin met him and convinced him to pose for him for two paintings. Robert J. Curtis painted an oil portrait of him. These pictures inspired a number of other prints, engravings and even cigar store figures. Afterwards numerous landmarks, including Osceola County, Florida, has been named after him. See also Osceola (disambiguation).

Osceola died of malaria in January 20 1838 and was buried with military honors.

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A tile painting of Osceola

Relics of Osceola

After his death, army doctor Frederick Weedon removed Osceola's head and embalmed it. He also persuaded other Seminoles to allow him to make a death mask and kept a number of objects Osceola had given him.

Captain Pitcairn Morrison took the mask alongside other objects that had belonged to Osceola and sent it to army officer in Washington. By 1885, it ended up in the anthropology collection of the Smithsonian Institution, where it currently remains.

Later, Weedon gave the head to his son-in-law Daniel Whitehurst who, in 1843, sent it to Valentine Mott, a New York physician. Mott placed it in his Surgical and Pathological Museum. It was presumably lost when a fire destroyed the museum in 1866.

in 1966, Miami businessman Otis W. Shriver claimed he had dug up Osceola's grave and put his bones in a bank vault in order to rebury them at a tourist trap in the Rainbow Springs. Shriver traveled around the state in 1967 to gather support for his project. Archaeologists later proved that Shriver had dug up animal remains - Osceola's body was still in its coffin.

Some of Osceola's belongings still remain in the possession of the Weedon family, while others have disappeared. The Seminole Nation bought Osceola's bandolier and other personal items from a Sotheby's auction in 1979. There are also forged items and claims of an intact head.


  • "Osceola's Head" (Jerald T. Milanich, Archaeology magazine January/February 2004).
  • Wickman, Patricia R. Osceola's Legacy. University of Alabama Press, 1991.

See also Osceola (disambiguation)de:Osceola


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